Q: This acorn-shaped dish and ladle is marked with a blue flower and “Made in Japan.” It originally belonged to my great-grandmother of Portsmouth, Va., who lived 1859 to 1935. It has now been passed down to me. I have searched for the trademark but cannot find the manufacturer’s name or its market value. Any information would be appreciated.
A: We are answering this question primarily for two reasons. One, the piece is complete and charming, and its original use may not be immediately apparent. And two, we can supply the name of a website that might help many readers determine who made their seemingly anonymous pieces of Japanese porcelain.
We were fairly sure who was responsible for making the piece just by looking at it, but when we checked the list of marks for that particular maker it was not there, and we had to dig deeper. Turns out we were kind-of-sort-of right in the first place.
You describe the covered vessel as being “acorn-shaped,” but we really think it is more melon-shaped with a finial that may or may not be a tomato or some other kind of unrecognized garden fruit. In any event, it and the ladle were meant to be used to serve a condiment such as mayonnaise on an American table or buffet from the mid-1920s or early ’30s.
At first glance, everything about the piece says “Noritake.” And in a very real sense it is. In 1904, Ichizaemori Morimura founded the Nippon Toki Kashi Co. to export high-quality, Western-style dinnerware to the United States. The firm was located in the village of Noritake, near Nagoya on Honshu Island, and the firm later became known as “Noritake.” The letter “M” is often part of the company’s trademarks.
The particular mark on the piece is basically a cherry blossom printed in blue with the words “Made in Japan” underneath. But if you examine the mark closely, it becomes apparent that the five petals that compose the flower are actually made of “M’s,” which supposedly stand for “Morimura.”
Clever, but not readily apparent unless you are looking for it and understand what you are seeing. This cherry blossom mark was first used circa 1924 on Noritake pieces subcontracted to be produced by other, independent Japanese porcelain manufacturers. We have found the mark printed in both blue and green.
In summation, the piece was made under the auspices of Noritake, but in a factory whose identity was probably lost in the fires of World War II, when Noritake’s records were destroyed. For more information on marks on Japanese porcelain, we suggest going to gotheborg.com. It’s a wonderful resource.
The value of this very interesting piece is largely sentimental as a family heirloom, but for insurance purposes its worth is in the $85 to $110 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.